In another week or two, national pundits will begin to weigh in with opinions on Kansas University athletic director Sheahon Zenger’s decision to turn the football program over to the biggest name ever to coach the sport here.
Why wait? Why not hit up the only former NFL player ever to win an Oscar for an opinion now? Ed Cunningham, a center in the NFL for five seasons, now is an analyst in the booth for ABC on Saturdays, alongside Mike Patrick, and that’s not all he is.
Cunningham was one of the producers for “Undefeated,” a film that followed a high school football team in Memphis and won an Oscar for best documentary. Cunningham knows boring doesn’t cut it, so when he’s asked for an opinion, he lets it all hang out and doesn’t hide behind safe words.
Asked to sum up the hiring of Charlie Weis in one word, Cunningham chose — risky.
“I’ve covered Charlie a lot and I do think Charlie has a great offensive mind,” Cunningham said. “I have not seen him as a top-tier head coach yet at the college level. But I do understand the allure and I do understand there is value in name recognition.”
Weis went 35-27 from 2005 through 2009 at Notre Dame.
“I think Charlie showed some flaws when he was at Notre Dame,” Cunningham said. “He was great on offense. His quarterbacks played well and I don’t think he gets enough credit for what he got out of some of those players, but the truth is, his defense was a train wreck most of the time.”
The Weis hiring has been a huge hit with Kansas alumni, clearly has put a bounce in the step of the players and has the fan base more jacked for the start of the football season than is usually the case. Cunningham isn’t on the bandwagon.
“I look at Kansas, I’m not convinced,” he said. “We’ll see if he makes adjustments from his time at Notre Dame. For a conference that almost died, that’s a pretty strong conference. He’s got a huge challenge in front of him.”
Weis already made an adjustment from his Notre Dame days by hiring a big NFL name to run his defense in Dave Campo. He essentially is the head coach of the defense, given more authority than most defensive coordinators. It was a huge catch for Kansas.
Do you like that hire?
“I do and I don’t,” Cunningham said. “I look at Dave Campo and he’s a good defensive coach. But the college game is such that there are so many flavors on offense and so many different things you’re going to see. In the NFL, it takes about five hours to figure out an offense. Whatever the team, there are four or five wrinkles, but everybody runs the same plays, especially in the run game. In college, week-to-week, it’s pretty tough to figure some of this stuff out.”
Risky hire? Sure. A risk worth taking? Absolutely.